The Utah ski team was back in action over the weekend down in the Land of Enchantment, where the Utes took second overall in the New Mexico Invitational. The Utes competed well in the Nordic races but couldn’t overcome a strong finish from Colorado’s men’s slalom performance and finished second to the Buffaloes at 646 points.
It was a great showing for the team overall, which has been coming together with great chemistry and healthy competition. Utah director of skiing Kevin Sweeney feels this helped the Utes in New Mexico and will especially help them as they continue their journey to the NCAA Championships.
“Overall, I am extremely impressed with the entire group’s performance here,” Sweeney said. “We are charging as a full squad — both alpine and Nordic — and it is really impressive to see, not only with the results and putting up consecutive podiums with really solid depth, but also the momentum and team camaraderie and spirit. It’s very infectious right now, and I think the group is having a really good time, even though there is some really strong intersquad competition going on to see who is going to represent the team at the NCAA Championships. What is really nice to see is how healthy that competition is. Each athlete is pushing each other but also offering great support to their teammates.”
Highlights from last weekend’s action included great performances from freshman Julie Mohagen, who won her third-straight giant slalom run to help the women’s team on the alpine portion. The men also fared well on the slopes, where junior Joergen Brath finished 14th overall.
In Nordic, sophomore Nick Hendrickson took control on the men’s side by earning second in the five-kilometer freestyle race. The team also earned three top-five finishes in the 10-kilometer classic, with senior Niklas Persson finishing third on the podium.
The women also competed well in Nordic on Saturday and Sunday with sophomore Veronika Mayerhofer earning her sixth podium finish of the season in the 5k classic. Sophomore Natalia Müller also competed at her best, earning her highest career finish at fourth place in the process.
Mayerhofer decided to change things up by using the double pole in her race. Ultimately, the change paid off, but she was more excited about her teammate’s finish than her own.
“I was looking forward to New Mexico — it is a special place in many ways,” Mayerhofer said. “But today it was even more exciting for me because I decided to double pole the whole race. I never did that before, but I really wanted to try it because we had a lot of hard double pole workouts since August, and it was a good race to go for it. I am very happy with my third place and even happier for Natalia’s fourth place and best result so far.”
Even though the team was disappointed with the second-place finish to its Pac-12 rivals, Sweeney was still pleased with the team’s overall effort in the Southwest.
“[I’m] very pleased with the results,” Sweeney said. “There are some areas of improvement I want to see — the men’s alpine team can definitely score better in the slalom event, and I think that can happen. We’re looking forward to Regionals in Vail. Overall, I am really excited how we came out of the blocks charging after the break we had in RMISA competition. I think the staff did an excellent job in preparation.”
The Utes now look forward towards their biggest competition of the season so far, as they travel to Denver to compete in the RMISA Championships.